Action Plan 2021 / Growing the Internet

Growing the Internet

Everyone should have access to the Internet. It is a life-changing resource, and as long as it remains necessary, we will not stop working to increase the Internet’s reach and resilience. We are committed to closing the digital divide by bringing together the people and technology that are needed to give everyone the access they want.

This means fostering trust and collaboration among those who build and maintain the Internet. It means improving established Community Networks and Internet Exchange Points and deploying new ones too. It means supporting sound decisions and policy by providing a single platform to provide consolidated, reliable insights about Internet resilience, shutdowns, and the Internet Way of Networking.

Building Community Networks

Bridging the connectivity gap

There is still much to do to connect people who want to be connected. Nearly half of the global population remains without reliable access to the Internet. These unconnected communities and individuals — who live in rural, remote and urban communities — are on every continent. Each day without Internet connectivity is a day of lost opportunity.

The traditional and conventional approaches to Internet access usually work well, but they cannot solve every problem. Community Networks (CNs) are local complementary access solutions to bridge the connectivity gap by allowing anyone, anywhere, to connect to the Internet with the right tools and support. These are networks built by people to address their own needs in their own communities. The Internet Society has a long history of making a difference in this area. In 2021, we will continue to focus on developing and enabling CNs and the communities that support them.

The power of the human network

We believe anyone can build and sustain a Community Network with the right backing. From community development and policy advocacy to funding and technical capacity building, we work to aid people involved with new and existing CNs.

We know that building a strong human network is essential to the health and long-term success of a CN. We do this by convening experts, partners, and policymakers and regulators.

Supporting new and existing CNs

In 2021, we will support a total of 10 new and existing CNs. For new ones, we will identify communities ready for network build-out and help them with deployment. For existing ones, we will help communities grow their coverage and technical capacity.

Scaling our work though new partnerships

We can achieve more by working together with our partners. That’s why we will collaborate with five new partners who can help amplify our efforts in deploying and promoting CNs, expanding our advocacy efforts, and building a stronger baseline of supporters.

Building a global network of Community Networks champions

We will train 300 individuals on essential skills and knowledge in technical, community-building, and policy topics directly related to CNs through our online moderated and self-paced courses and regional capacity building activities.

In addition, we will deliver more advanced training to 15 motivated Community Network Leaders who have had hands-on experience building CNs in their own community or region. As a result of the training, this cohort of advanced CN champions can act as on-the-ground multipliers, advocating for the Internet Society model for connectivity and building capacity at the local and regional level.

Focusing on local capacity

Sustainable networks are driven by the communities they support. Working with others who share our goals, we will continue to amplify, encourage, and advocate policies and regulations that are favorable to the development of CNs. We are confident that by the end of the year, at least five countries and organizations will update policies, regulations, rules, or projects in support of CNs.

As part of nurturing the human talent so important to CNs, we will continue to host Community Network Summits, shifting the format from in-person events to fully virtual. These regional events give participants the opportunity to discuss challenges unique to their environment, identify common issues, brainstorm solutions, expand their technical and policy knowledge, and celebrate successes. Most importantly, they create networks of networkers – groups of like-minded organizations and people who support the growth of CNs as a way to help bridge the digital divide.

Fostering Infrastructure and Community Development

Building the communities that build the Internet

There remain today many places where Internet access is marked by slow speeds, high costs, and unreliable service. Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) address this disparity and help grow the Internet by strengthening infrastructure, boosting availability, and creating shorter, more direct, and cheaper routes for local traffic.

Like Community Networks, IXP development is dependent on training local technical experts, cultivating interested communities, and working with policymakers and regulators to support their development. To this end, we remain committed to fostering strong technical and operational communities of supporters that can help plan, build, and sustain interconnection infrastructure.

Creating new and enhancing existing IXPs

We will continue to work with our partners to facilitate the development of new IXPs, upgrade existing ones, provide training, build local capacity, and advocate for policies that support the creation and development of IXPs and the interconnection ecosystem.

In 2021, we will establish five new IXPs and improve 15 existing ones by providing technical, development, or policy or regulatory support to help them mature and progress. We will enlist the help of five partners to help us expand our efforts related to improving the Internet experience by making local and regional connections both denser and more varied. We will also engage policymakers and regulators in five countries by providing evidence-based technical advice and best practices to support IXP-promoting policy and regulatory decisions.

Building capacities and leadership

We can help create a more resilient and affordable Internet for everyone by equipping communities with technical expertise. To make sure people have the skills and knowledge they need to support new and existing IXPs, we will train 500 individuals on best practices for building, running, and maintaining Internet networks.

Measuring the Internet

The Internet, by the numbers

There are many people, projects and organizations collecting data on various facets of the Internet. But until recently, there was no single site or tool to provide a curated set of insights into the health, availability, and evolution of the Internet. Insights, a platform by the Internet Society with a planned launch in December 2020, provides meaningful, reliable, and understandable data by drawing from various trusted sources.

Data-driven insights for all

We’ll use the data consolidated on the Insights platform to identify trends, generate reports, and tell data-driven stories about the Internet. As data can influence policy development and decisions related to Internet disruptions and investment in technologies and infrastructure, Insights will be a resource for policymakers, researchers, journalists, network operators, civil society groups, technologists, and Internet enthusiasts.

Possibilities through partnerships

Our focus in 2021 will be on promoting Insights as a useful resource for anyone interested in what Internet measurements can tell us about the state of the Internet. We will form three partnerships with measurement groups, data partners, economists, or all of these to incorporate figures and financial models into Insights and promote the platform to their networks and audiences.

The initial release of Insights is designed to measure Internet outages and the deployment of new technologies that help the Internet evolve. In 2021, we will further develop the platform by releasing Version 2, which will reflect improvements based on feedback from the initial release. Version 2 will expand the platform to encompass additional measurements of Internet resilience and to highlight examples of the Internet Way of Networking.

Creating an Internet for
everyone everywhere

Members globally

Chapters & SIGs

Organization members

Image copyright: © Internet Society / Nyani Quarmyne / Panos Pictures